There’s an illustrated book called “Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer,” and everyone we know hated it.
Packed with “Over 50 Stickers!,” it dreams up a computer engineering version of Barbie who seems better at taking praise for other people’s work than doing any actual coding. It prompted some serious outrage on the net this week because Barbie the computer engineer says things like “I’m only creating the design ideas” and “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a game.” She also infects her sister’s computer, leans on these two guy friends to fix the problem, and then takes credit for their work. Bad Barbie!
Says blogger Pamela Ribon: “It’s a perfect example of the way women and girls are perceived to ‘understand’ the tech world, and how frustrating it can be when nobody believes this is how we’re treated.”
But the internet has fallen in love with Feminist Hacker Barbie. She’s the brainchild of Kathleen Tuite, an independent computer programmer based near Santa Cruz, California, who spent a half-day this week putting together a website where people could re-caption the original book, hacking it to fix all of its pastel-hued problems.
Tuite, who until recently was a University of Washington graduate student studying crowdsourcing, says she created the site out of disappointment and frustration with the official Barbie book. In the past few days, her Feminist Hacker Barbie has blossomed into a full-blown and extremely funny internet meme with thousands of captions, many of which we think would make great fodder for a real Barbie engineering movie.
These captions work so well because of the sheer ridiculousness of the original Barbie images. In one of them, Barbie inexplicably sits in front of three computers, her hand on two different machines simultaneously. About 2,700 of the caption were uploaded to Tuite’s website—and then someone discovered a bug in the Django code Tuite used to build the site. In short order, Feminist Hacker Barbie got hacked.
At first, someone started uploading photos of Free Software Foundation advocate Richard Stallman. After that, came the porn. So Tuite pulled the plug on the uploads, but folks are free to create their own images and captions. And those have been popping up all over Twitter and Facebook for the past few days.
Tuite’s favorite so far is a picture from the book that includes a sample of the buggy code from her website—a sort of meta-cartoon, written as though Computer Engineer Barbie herself had unearthed the offending vulnerability.